Saturday 20 January 2018

Talented pupils at a Dublin school are ready to take on the world's greatest rappers

Fifth-class pupils at Rutland National School
Fifth-class pupils at Rutland National School

Over 50 years ago, students from Rutland Street National School created the now infamous Give Up Your Aul Sins recordings. However, today's students have chosen to tell their stories in a very different way, through the medium of rap.

Imagine one of hip hop's greatest stars - Kanye West, Eminem or Jay Z - in full flight on stage; impassioned, consumed by the beat, in some other-worldly, swagger-infused sort of trance. Now imagine that same enthusiasm in children between the ages of nine and 11 and you will have some inkling of the incredible performances I witnessed, while visiting Ireland's newest rapping sensations - the fourth and fifth class students at Rutland Street National School - this week.

With the help of The Ark, Irish rap star GMC recently spent time with the children, teaching them to write, create and record their rap, an uplifting song, which explains what music means to them. The result is a brilliantly delivered and catchy tune including lines like: "Music is what my feelings cannot show, it helps me go with the flow," and "Music is the game and I am the player and everybody knows I'm a sick rhyme sayer."

Nathan Kavanagh (10) from fourth class couldn't be more excited to tell me about the project.

"Well, the rap is the best thing to ever happen to us because we used to just be like, a normal class, and now we're famous," he announces with the aid of some very animated hand movements. "It was fun, it was the best thing that ever happened to us in this class and I love it."

"We're famous on YouTube," his friend Calum (9) agrees.

"We're the most popular class in the whole school - no one can beat us," Nathan says.

"Us and fifth class," Calum corrects him.

Douglas Sammy (10) and Millie Keoghan (10)
Douglas Sammy (10) and Millie Keoghan (10)

"Yeah, us and fifth class - we are the most popular classes in the whole school and if anyone tries to take that away from us, we'll beat them in a rap contest!" Nathan stands up out of his seat momentarily to emphasise the point.

A video of the song was uploaded onto YouTube on October 8 and has since been viewed over 2,500 times. "First we just started with Gary [rapper GMC aka Garry McCarthy], and then one day, we heard it back that it had got 508 views on YouTube," Nathan beams with pride.

"We didn't have a clue that it was going to be on YouTube or nothing," Calum chimes in.

So how did it make the boys feel to get such a positive reaction to their work?

"Good," Calum smiles.

"Oh my god like! Yeah... good," Nathan agrees. "It made me feel like I'm not a nobody anymore, I'm a winner!" he shouts, wringing his hands in victory.

Rutland Street National School pupils, Nathan Kavanagh (10) and Calum Cunningham (9).
Rutland Street National School pupils, Nathan Kavanagh (10) and Calum Cunningham (9).

Both Calum and Nathan hope to become rappers when they are older.

"I could be a bit like Eminem," Calum suggests in Nathan's direction.

"I'd like to be a rapper too and if I don't get that, I'd love to just be on them stages, doing the discs where they go whacka whacka," Nathan motions scratching decks on stage like a DJ, with one hand on an imaginary headphone.

"A DJ," Calum offers.

"Yeah! A DJ. I couldn't even think of it!" Nathan laughs.

Douglas Sammy (10) was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.

"It's been very good. I thought it was going to be boring, but now I think it's great," he tells me. "We practised a lot; we had to spend like three hours doing it. We spent most of the day. We just kept thinking of words that rhymed."

Douglas's classmate Millie Keoghan - who is very into music and has a lot of favourite pop stars including Beyonce and Justin Bieber - also enjoyed taking part, but is mainly glad of the exposure, which she sees as being beneficial to her future acting career.

"I want to be an actress. So it's been good to prepare," Millie tells me quietly, before Douglas joins in with excitement: "Today, somebody said 'I'd love to get your autographs'."

Nathan and Calum have yet to be asked for their autographs, but they are pretty confident it is on the horizon.

"They might all start asking us for them when we get a million views," Nathan explodes with an excited squeal. "I asked teacher, 'When we get a million views, can we have a party?' and she said, 'We'll see'."

So, what's next for Ireland's smallest rap stars?

"We have a talent show every year and we might be doing our rap for it now too," Calum explains.

"Will I tell you what I'd love to do?" Nathan says. "I'd love to go away to New York and go over to the best rapper in New York and say, 'Here can I tell you something?' and challenge him to a rap-off right there."

For Principal Maria Barron, the project has been a perfect way of engaging her young students through a very modern method.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea because we are trying to educate the children through what their interests are and develop them that way," Ms Barron explains.

"It is also really important to teach the children positive ways of dealing with emotions too, such as anger and sadness, and a good way of getting children to express themselves and how they are feeling.

"It has been so helpful for their confidence, for showing the importance and benefits of team work and for their creativity as well.

"Children are so creative and they are spontaneous in their creativity, so we felt that the rap would be ideal."

For more information on The Ark's projects see: http://ark.ie Check out the Rutland Street School Students' rap video on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7iKfA5pQfg

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